Rachel Gardner '16 Shares Passion-Filled Service Journey
June 03, 2016
For most students, community service is just an extracurricular activity, but for recent graduate Rachel Gardner of Kent, Ohio, this passion is a lifestyle.
Gardner, who majored in sociology and management at Mount Union, believes the importance of working to better the lives of people around her.
“I believe true happiness comes from touching the lives of others and caring for people other than yourself,” Gardner said. “This idea has been a part of me throughout my entire life. It was fostered by my family; I saw it in my high school, and it has become even stronger during my time at Mount Union.”
One organization that helped Gardner’s love for service grow is her involvement in the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega (APO). Since joining the organization her freshmen year, Gardner took as many opportunities to serve as possible. Those opportunities include traveling to Florida with APO to work with the Stop Hunger Now Warehouse and Give Kids the World.
“Give Kids the World is what made me consider working with children with terminal illnesses,” Gardner said. “I witnessed such resilience and optimism in these kids, and they have inspired me to live every day of my life to the fullest.”
In addition to APO, Gardner was also involved in other organizations centered on community service at Mount Union, including Sophomore Service, the Dowling Mentor Program and serving as a Regula Scholar through the Regula Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement.
“As a part of the Regula Scholar program, we were paired with mentors from the surrounding community,” Gardner said. “We learned about how we can be involved in the public service sector and in community service throughout our lives.”
Not only did Gardner have the opportunity to work with mentors from the community through the Regula Center, but she also took part in various service events such as the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
“I really enjoy the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner,” Gardner said. “It is a lot of work to prepare all of the food, but each year that I have been a part of it, we have come close to serving 500 individuals from the community and that is really amazing.”
Gardner’s passion for service does not stop there. She recently took a course on social responsibility and had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua as part of the course.
“This class was the most rewarding and inspiring class I have ever taken,” Gardner said. “It lifted the curtain and allowed me to see the real struggles that exist in the world.”
These experiences and involvements have had a lasting, memorable impact on Gardner’s life.
“All of the service opportunities that I have had and all of the trips that I got to be a part of as well as the amazing people I have met here at Mount have helped me become the person I am today and put me on the path to my future,” she said.
But Mount Union is not where Gardner’s passionate service path ends, as she plans on centering her future career on her love for serving others.
“I believe that it is not enough to solely strive to make myself happy, but it is important to work to better the lives of those around me,” Gardner said. “I want to have a meaningful life. And for me that means living a life for others.”